So, I shared before how I’d had the distinct honor to attend the Oprah Winfrey Network Doc Club screening of MissRepresentationand its subsequent taped discussion on the Rosie Show. The reviews have been phenomenal and garnered lots of calls for action. I absolutely loved the doc. It served the purpose media, especially documentaries, have to not only call attention to an issue, but empower as well.
MissRepresentation’s overall premise is familiar to most, yet the critical component is the campaign to strategically use information as teachable moments. This will definitively build a movement to change the portrayal of women by/in the media. What’s more amazing is that the film is a catalyst for funding organizations such as the Women’s Media Center to continue the discourse, advocacy, media literacy and research. Simply powerful.
While watching, I was hard pressed to keep track of all the fascinating and inspiring quotes.
Pat Mitchell, President and CEO for Media Former President & CEO of PBS shared this insight, “The media is the message and the messenger, and increasingly a powerful one.”
“You can’t be what you can’t see,” was a quote from Marie Wilson, founding President White House Project
And though I sought us out, I must say the lack of diversity and representation of Black women and girls beyond the narrow lens of reality TV, albeit the mainstream go –tos like Miss Winfrey and Soledad O’Brien, was obvious.
It was only when I heard the reference to symbolic annihilation that the documentary fully resonated with me and connected to what is my life’s work; empowering girls like me in urban America to use critical analysis to navigate beyond media and cultural messages. Girls Like me who are portrayed as “bad girls”, violent, angry, poor, uneducated, low-class and “ghetto.” Black women who are “successful” or who meet the standards of beauty are held up as seemingly novelties, with no connection to urban America.
So as soon as Rosie invited questions from the audience, I jumped to speak to that point. In the midst of a studio full of white women, I could feel the discomfort in the room as soon as the words came from my mouth. But it is a necessary conversation, and if we are to truly tackle media’s exploitation and misrepresentation of women, there must be intentional inclusion of perspective from all women, pointedly those who have the least voice in shaping their own stories in the mainstream.
Carol Jenkins, journalist, producer, and founding President of the Women’s Media Center gave such a poignant response that penetrates to the very essence of why this matters so much. Watch our exchange in this video:
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Still, a few days prior to the MissRepresentation screening one of the oldest and most prominent girl-focused organizations hosted a Twitter chat on media images and girls. I noticed there and in other arenas exploring the topic, somehow race and culture are skirted around. This troubles me.
What about you… do you agree race and culture belong in this conversation? What are the media images that you most connect/resist? Are they tied to you as a woman or to your experience as a fill in the blank woman
It apparently troubled others like Bessie Akuba Winn-Afeku, founder of She is Me Program. Now we have both linked arms to collaborate and host a Twitter chat dedicated to examining the images of girls of color in media and to offer best practices that resist stereotypes, empowering girls to create their own messages.
That is the goal of #girlsmediachat which will take place on Twitter Thursdays, 8p CST, beginning Nov. 3. We hope you will join us, share your perspective, recommend guests/topics, and invite others.
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Also, MissRepresentation is now a movement. Take a moment to take the pledge to join the fight!